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The third World Congress of the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) trade union took place in Bangkok earlier this month. And for first time ever, nine Chinese workers joined the meeting to share their fighting spirit with hundreds of colleagues from around the world.
Benjamin Teare travelled extensively from Guangzhou to Beijing to Kashgar, talking to workers, artists, factory owners and trade union officials about developing workers' theatre in China..
After 35 years of economic development, just about everyone in China accepts that something needs to change, everyone that is except the ACFTU. Photo by lille abe available @ flickr.com
On 10 October, workers at the Liansheng moulding factory in Guangzhou signed a collective agreement that forced the company to do something it had steadfastly refused to for the last two decades – pay workers the severance pay they were entitled to. Photograph of the Liansheng workers from Weibo.
Trade unions are invisible and ineffective in four factories in Shenzhen that have previously been recognised by the government as leaders in protecting their workers’ rights, according to undercover investigations conducted by a group of local university students.
In summer 2013, a group of students from nine universities went undercover to assess the state of enterprise trade union reform in Shenzhen. They investigated five factories and found the trade unions to be of little or no use in protecting workers rights.
When addressing the 16th national congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke about deepening and accelerating economic reforms as well as enhancing efforts to protect workers' rights.
Wu Guijun, a 40-year-old migrant worker and father of two, has been detained for nearly five months and faces possible criminal prosecution after staging protests against his employer and petitioning the local government in Shenzhen.  
Last month, 19 striking workers at a jewellery factory in the Guangzhou suburb of Panyu were sacked without any compensation. Three of the workers were pregnant and two were nursing mothers.
Beijing seems to realise it is in its own interest to allow workers to move forward, says Han Dongfang

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